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Mentorship & The Importance of External Figures of Impact

When was the first time you can recall acknowledging the help and positive intentions of an individual that was external to your family?

I can personally remember Tony, Steadman and Keishana at Afewee Urban F.C., teachers and teaching assistants at Sudbourne Primary School and the role of my, now, Step-Dad, who, at the time, did not need to commit as much of his efforts or resources on me as he did. 

Both Ben and I grew up playing organised sports in South London. In childhood and early adolescence, the fact that sports coaches and role models are often working voluntarily is not considered. Although these experiences may not have been financially beneficial for these figures, it provides evidence that a large source of motivation behind youth work, specifically voluntary work, carries a longitudinal, developmental and holistic perspective; they care about you and your growth.

This is incredibly important.

These figures, external to the family setting, are instrumental in shaping young people’s personalities, behaviours, interests and ethos. So much so that both Ben and I would not be working within sport in the Wandsworth community without the impact and guidance of these external figures within our youth and adolescence. It is impossible to pinpoint where we would be or what we would be doing without a supportive social circle promoting sport and helping people at every opportunity. This is one of the reasons why we are motivated to extend our level of support to young people in the form of mentorship.

If you have followed our Instagram page over the last few months you will be aware that we are currently conducting mentoring services, in various formats, within the local area. The introduction of our mentoring programme stemmed from my (Elliot’s) background and interest in Sport Psychology. Within youth sport, there is often an overwhelming focus on the technical, tactical and physical development of participants. Although social and psychological development are subconsciously enhanced through participation in sport over time, there is an obvious lack of intentional and conscious effort applied to promoting these essential skills with young people. This is where we think we can help.

What is Mentoring to us?

The term ‘mentoring’ has inherited many definitions, shapes and forms and, as a consequence,  it can suffer from a lack of conceptual clarity. We believe mentoring to be the practice of supporting a mentee’s growth and progress whilst increasing their sense of individual empowerment.

Our aim across all forms of mentorship that we provide is to cater to the individual and their bespoke needs. By taking a subconscious, conversational approach to rapport building, this, then, provides an open platform for these personal needs to arise, which, in turn, shapes our mentor’s ability to guide and support them.

Why are There a Lack of Psycho-Social Services Within the Youth Development Sector?

Accessible mental health support is in its infancy. In recent years there has been an increased amount of focus on the necessity for mental well-being to be supported to its fullest capacity. This has led to a spike in educational opportunities within mental health, therefore more informative educational literature and, as a consequence, more available occupational roles in this sector. As these accessible forms of support were limited for so long, there still lies a hesitancy in recruiting internal and external consultancies to address psychological well-being. We are currently in a large movement of transitional change regarding the support through hiring of these services, as opportunities are becoming more consistent and available.

A Drive for data. In a world where there is so much of a demand and desire for measurable outcomes, there seems to be a lack of consideration that often the results of holistic development-based programmes cannot be measured or identified through numbers on a piece of paper, but more so from behavioural observations. This can often deter people or organisations from committing to partnerships or funding. Just because there may be a lack of data to assess progress, that does not mean that no progress is being made. This, also, does not mean that results are insignificant or less important, it can often mean that we are just less aware of them. 

Under-funded. As a consequence of community-accessible mental well-being services gaining further opportunities in recent years, as well as the modern drive for examinabe outcomes, this can often leave doubt in the eyes of individuals and organisations looking to provide funding. Although the intrinsic motivation for providing mentorship is still the driving motivational factor, the lack of funding in this sector provides a lack of a capacity to reach, therefore positively benefit individuals on a larger scale. According to London’s New Deal for Young People, young Londoners in need of support will have access to a personal mentor by 2024, however, if there is not sufficient top-down financial support, it becomes more challenging for organisations providing these services to reach the amount of individuals they would like to.

A Domino Effect: Mentees of Today and Mentors of the Future

By spending time as a mentee, this increases the likelihood of inheriting skills to be a mentor later in life. Speaking from personal experience, being surrounded and supported by mentors in my childhood encouraged me to inherit skills of caregiving and a keenness to upskill others. The role of mentoring has the ability to have a domino effect of mentor/mentee relationships for a lifetime.

References and Recommended Readings:

1. Leeder, T. M., & Sawiuk, R. (2021). Reviewing the sports coach mentoring literature: A look back to take a step forward. Sports Coaching Review, 10(2), 129-152.

2. Lefebvre, J. S., Bloom, G. A., & Loughhead, T. M. (2020). A citation network analysis of career mentoring across disciplines: A roadmap for mentoring research in sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 49, 101676.

3. Mayor of London. Mayor announces plans to provide mentor for every young Londoner.

4. Together Platform. What is the purpose of mentoring?

Get in touch

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact.